Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cinnamon coffee buns with a twist...

Speaking of the Finns, let's talk coffee buns. And coffee.

Finns drinking the most amount of coffee per year per capita. Yep, more than Italians, more than the French. They drink it black, they drink it often. They drink it alone, they drink it when friends come to visit. First thing in the morning, until late into the night, Finns have a pot of liquid black gold on the boil. It is part of the nature of being a Finn.

My mother in law started drinking coffee before the age of 10. My sister in law who despised coffee learnt to love it on a five week adventure there. Previously I've always taken milk with my coffee, but after a visit there when I was repeatedly offered black coffee around four times daily I learnt that the stuff is not so bad. In fact, a black coffee is refreshing. And is perfect with a pastry.

Mmm, pastry. Finnish pastry. Filled with berries, or sugar, or cardamom. Sweet and oozing with syrup. A great off set to a strong, somewhat bitter black coffee. The pastry that I believe trumps them all also happens to be the most common. Pulla. But say it with a soft p sound, more like "bulla". Cinnamon, cardamon and sugar. Rolled into a log of dough, sliced into wedges and squeezed somewhat. So the lays of spices poke out. In Finland, you have it served on planes, it can be bought from a 7-11. Bakeries make dozens of them daily, and your neighbour will have a few stashed away in the freezer for when coffee and company needs to be had.

These are fiddly to make. And they take time. But you make so many. And they are so delicious. A little taste of Finland.

Makes up to 3 dozen

250 mg milk
100 g caster sugar
2 small dsp dried yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
125 g butter, softened
2 tsp cardamon seeds, ground (ideally in a mortar and pestle)
1 tsp salt
650 g flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g caster sugar, extra, plus a little more
80 g butter, softened
1 more egg, lightly beaten

Warm your milk gently in the microwave until tepid. Add the sugar and yeast, whisk to combine and set aside for 10 minutes to get the yeast going. It will get frothy and foamy. Add to this the egg, butter, cardamon and salt. Slowly add the flour, bit by bit. You can do this process in your mixer (as I do) if that's easier.

Kneed the dough until it is smooth and soft, for around 5 minutes. Place into a greased bowl, cover with gladwrap and leave to prove for around an hour in a warm place, until doubled in size.

Mix together the cinnamon, sugar and butter. Set aside. This will be your sticky filling between layers of dough. Yum!

Punch down the leaven dough, divide into quarters. Using a rolling pin, roll out quarter of the dough into rectangles a few millimetres thick. Spread a quarter of the cinnamon mix over the rectangle of dough, before rolling it up to a log. This will be a spiral that has cinnamon butter between each layer. Using a knife, cut the log into pieces. But cut on an angle, so you get a good surface area of layers revealed. Make your cuts so that each little pulla is shaped like a "v" or a triangle. Place the pulla larger surface down onto a lined baking tray, and push your thumb into the point of the bun. This will push your layers of dough out encouraging the ooze of filling. Repeat this process with remaining dough and cinnamon butter. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place for a further thirty minutes or so.

Mean while pre-heat the oven to 180* C.

Once your pulla have risen again, brush them with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, until golden and risen. Set aside to cool a little and enjoy with coffee. Store once cool in an air-tight container for a few days, or freeze for later.

One for the Fins...

Finnish grandmas have been making this bread for years. Years and years. And between loaves of this bread, they don't wash out the bowl. Consequently real Finnish rye bread is dark in colour. As dark as a gloriously intense 75% cocoa chocolate bar. And fragrant. Full of yeast and rye smells. That knock you out. That are perfect with cheese, or jam, or cheese and jam. Perfect with smoked salmon, with herrings, with boiled egg. Dense chewy bread, that you rip when you bite into. That lasts and lasts and improves with time.

At least, this is what the fella told me. "You should try real Finnish bread," he informed me, "but this is pretty good".
Finish-Style Rye Bread
Makes a solid loaf

225 g rye flour
300 g white flour
7 g dried yeast
1 tbs dark brown sugar
2 good pinches of salt
300 ml warm water
1 tbs melted butter

Using either a bowl or a mixer (such as a KitchenAid with dough hook attachment) combine the flours, yeast, sugar and salt. Slowly add the water until the mixture begins to come together. Add the melted butter to make a cohesive dough.

Now either kneed by hand for around 10 minutes, or mix in your mixer for half of that time. Your dough will be smooth but really heavy. This is not white bread, it won't stretch and be luscious rather be compact and solid.

Oil a bowl, turn the dough over in it and cover the bowl with gladwrap. Leave in a warm place to prove. This could take a while, so be patient and maybe wait overnight even. You won't get a puffy glorious rise, cause there is little yeast to the heavy flour, but you will get a rise to around twice the original size of the dough.

Pre-heat oven to 190* c. Line a baking tray with paper.

Knock down the dough, shape it into a loaf and leave to prove for a further 30 to 45 minutes. The loaf should again puff up a little and become lighter.

Bake in your heated oven for 45 or so minutes, until cooked through. Leave to cool and eat with joy.

From Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Choc chip cookies continued...

Previous posts have documented a quest for the choc chip cookie to be perfected. Perhaps my problem with this quest starts with the fact that in Aus, I should be searching for a choc chip bickie not cookie!

These are pretty good though. Initially whipped up by the fella when we went away for a weekend. Currently they are my go-to staples when it comes to choc chip biscuits. Are they that good though that experimenting with recipes will cease? I think not. The mix can be temperamental at times. With flat, fuzzy edged biscuits. Or hard as little frisbees if given a few minutes too long. But when they work, oh they are good!

I hope you have success with these.

Choc Chip Biscuits Take 2
Makes around 3 dozen small biscuits

125 g butter, softened
1 c brown sugar, gently but firmly packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
200 g choc chip bits
100 g nuts, diced (walnuts, hazelnuts, etc)

Pre-heat oven to 180* C fan-forced. Divide oven shelves into thirds. Line three baking trays with paper.

Beat butter with brown sugar. Using a mixer is ideal - give it around three minutes to be light and fluffy. Add vanilla, milk and egg, beat briefly to combine. Gently stir in the flour and baking powder. Turn off the mixer and add the choc chip bits and nuts. Stir to combine.

At this point, your biscuit mixture may benefit from a rest in the fridge to firm things up. Even 15 minutes could be good. But if it is not too soft, get on with the baking. Using a spoon, heap small rounds of mixture onto your prepared trays. They can be any size really, but I find balls around 3 cm in diameter or so work well - more than a mouthful but not a complete meal.

Cook in the oven for around 8 minutes. Check at this point and give the biscuits more time if needed. Remove and cool on the trays for 5 or so minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy with a cup of tea. Store in an air-tight container for up to a week. Alternatively, once the balls of dough have been formed and placed onto the trays, freeze. Once frozen, place in bags of around a dozen. Then when you need a snack, there are biscuits that only need to be cooked (or dough eaten from frozen).

Adapted from Michele Cranston's Marie Claire: Kitchen, the Ultimate Recipe Collection.

Parmigiana if you please...

Recently a friend commented that parmas are a Melbourne thing. And indeed I think that she is right. Sure, they are done in other cities but not with the passion that comes from Melbourne. Pubs routinely have parma and pint (pot if stingy) nights. For very little money you get a warm meal and cool drink. With a few chips and a limp salad on the side. The fella finds it hard to resist a parma and pint deal, so when I found this Jamie recipe I simply had to make it.

Not that I've not made parmas before. But it looked so enticing. And the fella was hanging out for one, in fact longing for one, refusing to eat at places that don't serve it (thus rejecting both Subway for a quick feed and the local pizza place). What else could I do but make one? To quieten him at least! And I am glad that I did. For this recipe is a winner. I will make it again any day. Thank you Mr Oliver!

Chicken Parmigiana
Serves 2, double for 4.

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 anchovies
2 red chillies
400 g tin diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls breadcrumbs, freshly made in a processor
1 handful grated pecorino
Zest of 1 lemon
100 g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
2 small chicken breasts
few basil leaves
small amount of mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven to 200 * C.

Place a frying pan over medium heat, add a slosh of olive oil. Add the garlic and anchovies, cook until fragrant. Add the chillies, smoshing them in the sauce a little, along with the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so until thickened. Season to taste. Remove mixture to the base of an oven-proof dish in which you will cook the parmigianas. Wipe out the pan.

Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs with pecorino and zest. Place this onto a plate. On another plate place flour and season it. On another plate (this one with some lip) add the egg. Beat the chicken breasts with a meat cleaver until flattened. You want them around 5 mm thick, and even all over. Coat the chicken with flour, dip it into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Press it down and ensure that the entire breast is covered with crumbs.

Heat the frying pan again over a medium heat and add another slosh of olive oil. Cook the chicken until golden and generally cooked through - around 3 minutes per side. Place the chicken on top of the tomato sauce mixture in to oven-proof dish. Place a few basil leaves on top of the chicken, then cover the leaves with cheese. I cut the cheese from a large round into small disks and placed them on top of the chicken, leaving some surface area cheese-free.

Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and the dish is cooking together. Enjoy with a salad or side of corn on the cob.

From Jamie Oliver's Jamie's America.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A healthy breakfast considered...

Quick and easy breakfast solutions. I have searched for them, have you? Toast on the run, done. Cereal when you arrive at work. Fruit smoothy with some muesli thrown in. Pancakes on weekends. Bacon and eggs. Bagels, etc, etc.

Muffins though, are just an excuse to eat cake first thing. And sometimes I feel guilty about this. Surely I should maintain and promote healthy eating. Surely I should make wise, considered choices about what I eat. I should look after myself now for the longer term. Maybe these muffins count towards this... maybe.

Made with breakfast cereal, these muffins could be considered healthy. Bran and sultanas, super healthy. With fresh fruit also! I try to convince myself... I originally considered making these when I found a recipe posted by Joy the Baker for a similar creation. She made up the batter at the beginning of the week and then cooked fresh muffins each morning. Would it work with this recipe? Perhaps the fresh pear would render it undesirable. Oh well, simply make up a dozen, refrigerate and heat each morning in the microwave to enjoy with coffee.

Sultana Bran & Pear Muffins
Makes 12

Around 1 3/4 c sultana bran, or similar cereal
1 1/2 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp all spice
1 pear, cored and diced finely
3/4 c milk
1 tsp white vinegar
75 g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 180* C. Line a muffin tray with papers.

Combine dry ingredients with the diced pear in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vinegar. Leave to sit for around 5 minutes. This will sour the milk and make it thicken. For some reason, muffins often call for buttermilk or this soured milk. The theory is that the end product is light due to this process. Add the butter and eggs, stir to combine.

Mix the wet ingredients gently into the dry ingredients until just combine. Scoop into the muffin tray.

Cook in the oven for around 15 minutes, until golden, risen and cooked. Enjoy either warm for breakfast or as they are.

Adapted from the Coles brand Sultana Bran equivalent cereal box.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Knocking on about gnocchi...

Simply years ago I made gnocchi. When I was a girl and dreaming of falling in love with an Italian man and living in Florence. The gnocchi was copious in abundance, stodgy and lumpy. The Italian man never eventuated.

While at boarding school I ate my share of gnocchi. It came from a packet and was served on Friday nights with an out-of-a-can tomato sauce. While I thought I loved it, in reality it tasted ordinary.

Occasionally when we go out for a meal, I will order the gnocchi. With a basil pesto and cream sauce. Never am I impressed as I expect to be.

The other day, I made gnocchi. And it was amazing! Why have I put up with ordinary gnocchi for years? The fella loved it also, and ate and ate and ate until all six serves was gone. As some would say, this recipe "is going straight to the pool room".

Gnocchi with brie
Serves up to 6.

1 kg potatoes
1/2 c parmesan, grated
2/3 c plain flour, sifted, plus extra
salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs yolks
40 g butter, diced
small wheel of brie, diced
extra parmesan, grated

Pre-heat oven to 180* C.

Line a baking tray, place potatoes on it and roast for 45 - 60 minutes, until the insides are soft and the skin is crispy. Remove and cool some what.

Scoop flesh out of potato skins, mash until smooth. Add parmesan and flour, stir to combine. Season to taste. Add the yolks, stir to make a smooth, cohesive mixture. Turn out onto a floured bench. Kneed for two minutes until smooth. Divide mixture and roll into logs a centimeter thick. Cut into lengths of three centimeters or so.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Increase the temperature of the oven to 200 * C. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface of the water. Place in a greased oven-proof dish and continue to cook the pasta pieces.

Top the gnocchi with the butter and brie (or other soft melting cheese). Bake in the oven for 15 -20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Sprinkle with a little extra parmesan. Enjoy!

Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 50.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whole oranges for afternoon tea...

Afternoon tea just demands a little mouthful of goodness, doesn't it? Something that is light but sweet, that slips down with a cup of something hot. That gives you a little energy to get through to your evening meal. But does not send you off into a siesta.

In keeping with these ideas, I turned a cake into cupcakes recently. And I don't think I'll be heading back to cake world with this one. Cupcakes it is. Easy to snaffle down. Less mess than a whole cake. Very transportable, to work for afternoon tea say...

This recipe has come together from a variety of sources. It is intended to be a quick, whip up sort of cake. But no matter how much you process whole oranges I have found it still get chunks of peel. And peel puts people off. So I followed the Jewish/gluten free ideas of boiling your oranges first until sumptuous and soft. Until the whole house smells clean with citrus scent. This does extend the cooking process by a few hours. But it effectively uses up some sorry fruit you may have lying around. And I often boil the fruit the night before and leave them sitting in their water until I'm ready to cook. Or boil up a few oranges, stash them in the freezer and simply defrost whenever the need for cupcakes arises. Hurrah!

Whole Orange and Raspberry Cupcakes
Makes 28 or so

2 whole oranges
1 3/4 c plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar
3 eggs
150 g butter
3/4 c raspberries (frozen is fine)

A good few hours before you want to eat your cupcakes, place the oranges whole into a saucepan of water. Ensure the oranges can be fully submerged. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for an hour or so, until soft but still holding their shape. Cool.

Pre-heat oven to 170* C. Place cupcake papers into an average sized cupcake/muffin tray.

In a food processor, blitz the oranges until they are smoosh. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and eggs. Pulse until combine. Melt the butter and then add it to the batter with the motor running. Turn off the processor and fold in the raspberries.

Spoon mixture into the cupcake papers, until 3/4 full. Bake in your oven for around 15-18 minutes, until golden and lovely looking. Cooked through helps too. Leave to cool in the tray for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the baking process until all the mixture is transformed into cupcakes.

Serve dusted with icing sugar, or with a touch of cream along side. Or simply as they are.